2011/08/30

Chanoma - tea of space-

As our lifestyles have changed, some languages have also changed. A Japanese term “cha-no-ma” is one of them.

"Cha-no-ma", literally means “the space of tea”, referrers to a place where family members get together to chat, eat and relax. That is, a living room. I am not sure about its origin of the word, but in a good old days, when family members spent time together in the same place, tea was always there. “Cha-no-ma” is a nostalgic word  associated with cozy and relaxing time in a large family.

Now, the time has changed. The family is smaller, and we live in busier society, and hustle and bustle of life. Eventually, the term of "cha-no-ma" is on its way out. We call the room “ima (literally, existing room)” or “living room” nowadays.

But still, whatever the term is, whatever the size of family is, spending time together among family while having tea will make us mellow out, always. 

Manga "Sazae san"
Sitting in a family around a table in "cha-no-ma"

*Sazae san (One of the most popular manga among men and women of all ages)   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sazae-san

2011/08/27

Yuzamashi

“Yuzamashi” is a key word to have a nice cup of Gyokuro and Sencha.

What does the word mean? Literally, yu means hot water, and zamashi refers to cool something. For the tea, “yuzamashi” refers to two meanings: One is to make hot water cooler. The other is a vessel aimed to make hot water cooler. So, do “yuzamashi” (to cool hot water) is required to prepare those Japanese teas by using a “yuzamashi” ( a tea vessel). Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?

As you may know, when the higher temperature hot water is used, catechin, which creates bitterness, is extracted. To enjoy Umami, which is specialized with Gyokuro and higher-grade of Sencha, doing "yuzamashi" is inevitable.  If you don’t have a vessel "Yuzamashi", don't worry. A milk pitcher or any other vessels can do.

Whatever you use to cool hot water, do "yuzamashi" is recommendable if you are an Umami-lover.

Tea Sets
Teapot called Hohin (left at the back) and two teacups
Yuzamashi (at the front)

2011/08/22

Everyday Tea - Bancha -

Japanese tea has a various kind of tea including Matcha, Gyokuro, Sencha, Hojicha, Gemmaicha, Bancha, and newcomer Wakocha etc.

Many may try some of them. Have you tried “Bancha” before? Maybe, you haven’t, because Bancha is often translated as “coarse tea”, so it doesn’t sound tasty, does it?

How should it be translated, then? “Cha” means tea in Japanese.
What about “Ban”?
There are various viewpoints about the origin of its name including:
1) “Ban” means “daily”. So, Bancha refers to daily tea. ( In Kyoto, daily home cooking is often called “O-banzai”)
2) The tea is made from tea leaves after being plucked for Shincha (new tea) or summer-flush tea. In other words, Bancha is made from bangai (special case) tea leaves. Its name comes from the meaning of “special case” 
                                                                                      ….. etc.

Some Bancha are put on the market nowadays, but it originally had been consumed only at home or the local area. So, Bancha does vary from region to region. Interestingly, even Hojicha and Gemmaicha are regarded as Bancha at some areas.



Yes, Bancha is coarse tea, but can be also said “everyday tea” or “local tea”. In general, this tea has more catechin and less caffeine, so as you can see from its name, Bancha is good to take a gulp on a daily-basis.


*This is the post about one of Bancha called "Goishi-cha". Check it out!
http://japaneseteastory.blogspot.com/2011/05/goishi-cha.html

2011/08/19

Always Tea and Rice -Ochazuke Dish-

Japanese summer is so hot and humid..... I don't usually lose my appetite even it's too hot, but I sometime feel like having lighter dish.


In that case, Ochazuke(literally means "soaked in tea") is one choice. Ochazuke, or chazuke, is a simple Japanese dish made by pouring mainly green tea over cooked rice with savory topping such as vegetable pickles, pickled plums, broiled salted salmon, and wasabi. As you can see, it is really really easy to make and can be a quick snack too.

For Japanese, the pair of rice and tea is a must. So, Ochazuke is always good not only hot days but also chilly days. Even when we lost appetite, we can eat if it's Ochazuke. Yes, always "tea and rice"!

2011/08/17

Directly from Tea Farms

Thanks to the technology, “the sales methods” have changed remarkably. Tea is not an exception.

Conventionally, tea dealers buy tea from the some farmers, then blend tea in accordance with the retailers’ tastes, selling the tea to the customers. This helps uniform the quality and price of tea to some extent every year regardless of weather and other conditions.

These days, more tea is distributed directly from tea farmers to the customers via online shopping. This is what we call "single estate tea". The new routes gives the buyers more chances to select teas to suit one's favorite. In other words, the customers will enjoy distinguishing the taste from one to another, and finding their own tastes. You can choose tea more freely depending on the varieties, the producing areas and farmers. Where and what you buy is really up to your mood and the purpose. For tea-lovers, "the more choices, the more fun.", right?


2011/08/12

Wakocha in Wazuka

Wazuka town in Kyoto is known as the high-quality tea producing area. Especially, their Sencha  is one of the best in Japan, and the town has contributed Japanese tea culture to be flourished.

Now, at the traditional tea producing area, a newcomer,Wakocha (Japanese black tea), is born. In general, Wakocha has less tannin and milder taste, so it is recommendable to enjoy it as black without sugar and milk. But, surprisingly, the one (especially, the black label one in the picture) even goes well with milk.

I really can see Wakocha has been refined a lot now. It is exciting to see the traditional tea producing area is creating new tea more, and eventually developing another new tea culture.


FYR
*Wazuka 
 
*How to enjoy Wakocha  

2011/08/08

"See" Cool in Summer

Japanese summer is so humid and sticky, so you may feel like having ice cream or iced drink to cool you down.

Actually, there is the way that I can “see” and “feel” cool, too. Traditional Japanese confections, called Wagashi, will help. They are made to reflect the four seasons in order to please not only the palate, but the eyes.

The pictures are confections for summer. Don't you think that the appearances used transparent jelly give you coolness? Enjoy them with a nice cup of tea!


2011/08/05

Green Tea Soda Pop


The Sparkling
by Kirin Beverage Co.,LTD
This summer, soda pops are the fad in Japan. “Green tea soda pop” is one of them.

Usually, tea is tea. I prefer tea itself without putting anything like sugar and milk. So green tea soda pop sounds strange to me.

Yet, maybe, I may try……Japanese summer is really humid. So, this newcomer may refresh our mouths and us. But when I try this, I would take it a kind of soda pop, not a “tea”.


2011/08/01

Full of "Wakocha"

Wakocha, Japanese black tea, is a trend in Japanese tea industry, attracting me very much. The other day, we had Wakocha tasting get-togethers at a Japanese tea café, "Cha-En" in Osaka. I didn’t expected that many, but I tasted as many as 26 kinds in total on the day. What a lot!!


Then, what’s wakocha like??
I am afraid that it’s too various to define.

Why so different?
One of the biggest reason, I believe, is a wide rages of tea varieties. Some are made from the small-leaved Chinese variety, usually suit for Sencha, Matcha or Gyokuro. ( i.e. Yabukita, Saemidori and Sayamakaori). Others are used hybrid type with the large-leaved Assam variety. (i.e, Benifuki, Benihomare and Benihikari). Different variety creates different taste, flavor and tea color.

But, on the whole, I found out an interesting key to enjoy Wakocha. More steeping will get more taste, not too bitterness. Usually, black teas such as Darjeeling and Uva are steeped for 3-5 minutes. (It depends on the tea shapes, of course, but…) Steeping too long, you wouldn’t be able to drink it because tea will become too bitter. But, interestingly, Wakocha will not get strong astringency even if it is steeped more than 10 minutes. I rather enjoyed longer-steeped tea in general. Also, the tea color remains clear even if it leaves for a while, It won’t become cloudy. This seems to happen because the tea leaves used for the tea have less tannin and more umami. Also, what makes me happy is there are more Wakocha go well with milk than I expected.

I tasted so many kinds of Wakocha. Yet, there are more. They are not always great, but improved a lot. When you have a chance to try Wakocha, why don't you brew it for 10 minutes or more?